Sandpoint Solar Roadways rescheduled

Oct 3rd, 2016 | By | Category: Uncategorized

By MARY MALONE /Hagadone News Network,  writer

In this May 2014, photo provided by Solar Roadways, Scott Brusaw drives a tractor on a prototype solar-panel parking area at his company's business in Sandpoint, Idaho. Brusaw's idea for solar-powered roads has gone viral and raised more than $1.4 million in crowdsourced funding. Brusaw is proposing to pave driveways, parking lots, bike trails and, eventually, highways with hexagon-shaped solar panels that will produce electricity and could even propel electric cars. (AP Photo/Solar Roadways)

In this May 2014, photo provided by Solar Roadways, Scott Brusaw drives a tractor on a prototype solar-panel parking area at his company’s business in Sandpoint, Idaho. (AP Photo/Solar Roadways)

SANDPOINT — The Solar Roadways crew worked day and night to get the project at Jeff Jones Town Square in place for Friday’s unveiling, but to the dismay of Solar Roadways, Inc. owners Scott and Julie Brusaw, the clock ran out.

While the curing process of the solar panels took longer than anticipated, the press conference and a public demonstration were still held Friday. The unveiling was rescheduled for 1 p.m. today.

The Solar Roadways project will cover 150 square feet of the walkway at town square with SR3 solar panels. Each panel is 4.39 square feet in a hexagon shape, weighing about 70 pounds. The panels consist of a heating element to melt snow and ice, and the colorful LED display will engage the public. The panels will also offset energy costs for the city’s metered power for the restrooms and fountain at the square.

It is the first public demonstration of Solar Roadways in the world, but certainly won’t be the last.

“The Solar Roadways project is really a revolutionary technology, it’s a revolutionary idea, and it’s one that’s poised to really change the face of how we travel,” said Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad.

More than 150 people attended Friday’s demonstration, and while most were not too disheartened by the delay, a sigh of disappointment could be heard throughout the crowd when the news was delivered. A kiosk, which will remain in place along with 24-hour live footage, was available for viewing with a slideshow of information about the project. A small version of the SR3 panel, complete with LED lights, was on display as well.

Katie Swanson of Sandpoint is studying at Whitworth University to be a high school science teacher, so she was excited to learn about the project and the future it can hold.

“It’s so sustainable,” Swanson said. “Pavement and concrete take up a lot of space and since it’s already there, you might as well utilize that space for the production of something green and efficient.”

She also said it is great to see locals doing something positive. Swanson and her boyfriend, Cody Madden of Sandpoint, plan to return today for the unveiling.

“I think it’s a very interesting idea as far as going more toward green energy and creating energy out of something you use anywhere,” Madden said.

Another local who plans to return today is Gail Colegrove, who said she heard rumors the solar panels may eventually be able to power cars on the road. She said that is where the ‘fantastic’ comes in because it is something she never expected.

“I am intrigued and also hopeful for our future — I really am,” Colegrove said.

During Friday’s press conference, held at the Columbia Bank building prior to the public demonstration, Scott and Julie Brusaw spoke to the past, present and future of Solar Roadways.

Scott Brusaw had a vision of electric roads since he was a child, and one day his wife asked him if he could make the electric roads using solar panels. He dismissed the idea at first because solar panels have never been sturdy enough to place on a walkway, much less a road. But the idea stuck with him and soon after he began thinking about a way to encase the panels and Solar Roadways, Inc. was formed. The company received a grant in 2009 and the Brusaws began working on a 12-square-foot panel. They soon realized large panels were not going to work for curves and hills and the smaller, hexagon-shaped panel was designed.

The panels are still in the process of testing and next year advanced loading will be done on the panels that will simulate 15 years of truck abuse using a weighted truck tire on an 8-meter section of panels, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Surface traction testing passed beyond what is needed for approval by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the panels have passed impact testing as well.

“Our plan is to replace all asphalt and concrete,” Scott Brusaw said.

There are many opportunities in solar roads. The LED lights can be used for lines in the roads, although it would not be the colorful display that will be demonstrated at the square since that would be distracting to traffic. Police officers could easily redraw the lines for an accident rather than putting out traffic cones or flares, and then it could be reset with the push of a button. The heating elements will keep roads clear in the winter, which will prevent many injuries and deaths each year, and coils can eventually be placed in the panels to power electric cars.

“You have so many options for traffic management, for making our lives so much more convenient,” Julie Brusaw said.

Julie Brusaw said they hope eventually the cost of the panels will be affordable for everyone so they can be used not only on public roads, but on private roads, driveways and parking lots.

“It’s very important to us to get the cost down to where the average homeowner can afford,” she said.

The Brusaws hope to change the world one solar panel at a time, and Sandpoint is where it all starts. The couple said they will keep their headquarters in Sandpoint, though similar projects are already in the works in Baltimore and at a rest area along Route 66. Sandpoint will continue to be a focus of Solar Roadways and the Brusaws would like to see the first vehicle application of the panels in their hometown as well.

Rognstad and the Brusaws said there is a lot of benefit to having the Solar Roadways demonstration in Sandpoint, providing a significant economic value.

“And then also it has aesthetic value, it has artistic value, it has value around innovation,” Rognstad said. “That’s really part of the new brand of Sandpoint, so I think it’s really important for Sandpoint to be able to partner with Solar Roadways to be able to demonstrate that.”

The live feed and information on Jeff Jones Town Square and the Solar Roadways project is available on the city’s website at www.cityofsandpoint.com.

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